Starting Over

The complicated parts of rebuilding 6 Potomac Street have begun. The repair costs are frighteningly high, but we are fully covered. It is going to be a massive job making the burned out shell a home again.

The insurance company has also begun a full inventory of the contents of the house. Again, we are fully covered, but it is hard taking in just how much was lost in a few moments.

Dad is doing okay. All of this happening so soon after losing mom has hit him hard.

I have no clothes that fit, and my arthritic hands can’t buckle a belt. Using the sash from a bathrobe as a belt. I’ll get something to cover my ass eventually, but my main focus right now is dad, music, and writing.

To be honest, I’m not comfortable buying clothes. The last time I bought a pair of dress pants, I fell trying them on. Took the door right off a Target changing booth. Landed on my back, feet in the air and trousers at my ankles.

Maybe somebody should call one of those makeover shows. Otherwise, dad and I will end up looking like cast members of Grumpy Old Men.

For myself, I ordered a cheap Rouge squareneck resophonic guitar. I’m good with a slide, but it will still be a challenge to adapt my skills to lap guitar. As things settle down here, I plan to upgrade to a Weissenborn style guitar.

Not replacing or going back to the banjo. Nothing there for me. Better to start over with something new.

In other news, it turns out the backyard of our rental is frequented by bluebirds. Never seen so many in one place. Need to find a mealworm feeder and a cheap camera somewhere. They sing along when I play my harmonica. Joy!

So, in less than two weeks I lost nearly everything and my epilepsy is out of control. Three massive seizures in less than a week. I guess the stress of constant neuropathy pain and trying to put our lives back together is a bit more than I can handle.

Last big seizure, I fell out of the car and did a face plant on the gravel driveway hard enough to jack up some of my remaining teeth. I have an appointment to start pulling what’s left and get fitted dentures anyway. It just hurts right now, and that sucks. At the ER, nurses picked me up by my thumbs. I have bad arthritis. Something went in my left hand. Can hardly move without pain.

I have a video visit with my neurologist this morning. Hopefully she can shed some light on this.

In the next few days, our insurance company will start going through what is left of the house. Once I know what I’ll get for the instruments, computers, and recording gear, I can start to make some kind of plan.

Dealing with pain without a banjo is… Interesting. For the last thirty years or so, I have used banjo and guitar practice to deal with pain and stress. It will be a challenge to find something I can practice with that level of intensity.

I have no talent, folks. That is just a word lazy people use to wave away actual hard work. Every time people use it in my direction, I want to vomit.

Replacing the banjo would be a challenge. There is nothing on the market I would recommend to a bad musician. Also, there is a sales rep who works for several banjo companies. Back when The How and the Tao of Old-Time Banjo went to print, this rat went around music stores telling shop owners not to stock my books.

This forced us to rely on Amazon. They took 55% of every sale. With printing and shipping, I never really made a dime.

The emails and phone calls from shop owners telling about this idiot representing name brands while trying to put me out of business still haunt me. The hatred I deal with every single day is making me miserable.

That I get lectures and whining from people too lazy to practice just makes things harder. Everybody is interested in what they want from me, not what the pressure and lack of support is doing to my health.

Maybe music was a mistake. My hands ain’t good for much anymore. Maybe I’ll just feed the birds in the backyard and hang out with my cats.  Art in an ugly world seems kind of hopeless. I have a lot of thinking to do.

Life Goes On

Some friends pulled a few strings and we were able to rent a house close to home while 6 Potomac Street is rebuilt.

The new place is just a short walk to a farm. They have horses and Chincoteauge ponies. I don’t have a camera anymore, but I will be strolling over with my harmonica to sing old cowboy songs to the livestock.

The fire was electrical. The flames went up the west wall of the house like a blast furnace. The heat was so great the entire attic flashed. We were lucky to get out alive.

Dear Old Dad’s 17-fret tenor with the painted head survived. I don’t know how. Everything around it was destroyed. Dad’s banjo is slightly crispy, but fine.

My rosewood harmonica, a Suzuki Pure Harp, also made it when some of my other harps either melted or warped from the heat. Needless to say, the Pure Harp is one heck of a harmonica.

Everything else besides a few small things is gone. The pants I am wearing are about four sizes too large. I don’t have a belt, so I am using the sash from my bathrobe Jethro Bodine style. It goes well with my slippers and Redskins stadium coat somebody gave me. I feel like Zoolander modeling Derelicte.

One of my Dobros came through with just smoke damage. Even if I got it cleaned up, my hands can’t handle the six-string anymore. It has been given anonymously to a kid who needs it. As much as I loved that guitar, sharing it brought as much joy as my years playing it. Once I’m back at Potomac Street, I’ll be giving the father and son lessons on my porch.

I looked at replacing my banjo. In just can’t do it. That part of my life has passed.

So, I’m changing directions to an instrument that will utilize all of my musical skills in different ways. Back to being a beginner again. I won’t say what the instrument is as you all would have questions that I do not wish to answer. After over twenty years of working for other people to play, I want to do this for myself. That’s why I don’t want donations. I just want to make some music with my dad. Once I have scrounged enough of my own money to cover it, I’ll give the luthier the go-ahead.

It will take a few months for the instrument to be built. During that time I’ll be singing to the horses.

Go make some music. We’re not exactly fine at the moment, but we’ve been through worse than this.

God bless, -Patrick


Yes, I sat on the trunk of my car and played The Baltimore Fire for the firefighters.

Well, it looks like we may have found a place to stay (knock wood). Living in a tiny motel room has been tough.

Pooka is famous in Crisfield. Thirty firefighters and an EMS crew saw her stone dead. This morning she was strutting around the ruins of the house like a lion. Somebody better call Stephen King.

No clue what we will do for furniture while we wait for the house to be repaired. Then again, I’m still running around in slippers. The clothes somebody gave me are so big, I have to hang onto the waistband or they will fall right off my ass. Down to 190 now. I look shabby but good.

It’s kind of interesting having nothing. You look around at the extraneous junk people surround themselves with and realize that you don’t need hardly any of it.

I may have found a banjo I can afford. It ain’t much, but I can pay for it myself (if I can afford it, you know it ain’t much!). I don’t want an instrument with strings attached.
Update 3/8: Not buying the banjo. Not safe to spend the cash until we’re settled. Better to just keep a harmonica in my pocket. Oh well.

To the folks nagging/lecturing me to work in public again; please stop. You are only causing me more pain in an already trying time.

Fire In Crisfield

Our house burned down last week. All of my instruments and gear were either destroyed or damaged from heat, smoke, water, and then freezing cold.

We have insurance. I will not accept any form of fundraising effort because, unlike the rest of the world, I am not a victim.

The house and our belongings are toast. Everybody in town is amazed we are still alive. Two of the cats made it. Pooka died, but was somehow revived. Cats are tough, and kind of spooky.

I am retiring. The instruments will not be replaced. All YouTube videos and workshops have been deleted. The rest of my online data will be taken down as time allows. Even the books.

Working on the house today, I had a serious epileptic seizure. I was alone and passed out on the cold ground. The seizures continued for almost an hour as neighbors either tried to help or prayed over me. I was thrashing, convulsing, and barfing as people cradled me in their arms. It was awful but somehow wonderful. Unlike the rest of the world, I am cared for in Crisfield. The house and its contents were not my home. Crisfield is my home.

Now, I am sitting in my motel room aware that I have nothing left for the online world to take away and waste. Heck, I don’t even have a change of clothes. I just want to take up a new instrument, rebuild my home, and make the most of the warm weather ahead. I want peace and harmony in my little town. I want to spend time with my dad free of the pressure of this pointless and futile job.

I have taught in an open-source context since 1997. For my work I have been scourged by losers who can’t even outplay my crippled ass. The Internet has taken enough from me, and now I have nothing but my dad. Even my banjo is such a mess that I had to hold it together for my very last video.

On to better and happier things.